Bruce Sterling's Blog
May 20, 2013
*It’s a press release.
We are pleased to announce the launch of VIDA 15.0, Art and Artificial Life International Awards. As we begin accepting submissions for this year’s awards, we will be looking for artistic projects that offer innovative perspectives on life by using the latest technology and cutting-edge scientific knowledge.
VIDA the Art and Artificial Life International Awards begun in 1999 by Fundación Telefónica, it was created with the mission of supporting creative endeavors in this singular field by rewarding the pioneering efforts of artists. At a time when the concept of life finds itself once again in uncharted territory, a wide range of artistic initiatives attempt to illustrate and explore this phenomenon, examining its impact on our collective consciousness and how it affects the cultural, technological and social mindset. Over the past decade, VIDA has welcomed a variety of interdisciplinary projects that respond to this situation and brought them together in a single forum. Using formal strategies that push the boundaries between existing practices, these projects offer new perspectives that force us to reconsider our pre-existing notions of life and artificial life.
VIDA 15.0 supports excellence in artistic research into artificial life. Projects that win a VIDA Award must be capable of expressing the complex organization of life systems and the hybrid nature of life. The VIDA jury will evaluate artistic projects that meet these criteria and, more importantly, will select those projects that challenge our current understanding and definition of life.
As in previous years, contestants are invited to submit proposals in one (or both) of two categories:
CATEGORY “FINALISED PROJECTS”
In this category, Vida 15.0 rewards artistic artificial life projects developed after the year 2011.
A total of 42,500 euros will be divided among the three winning projects chosen by the jury:
First Prize: 18,000 euros;
Second Prize: 14,000 euros;
Third Prize: 8,000 euros.
Seven honorary mentions will also be awarded to projects chosen by the jury from among the finalists.
In addition to the winners of the three main prizes, we will also choose seven participants to receive honorable mentions and compete for the special People’s Choice Award. Of these mentions, only the People’s Choice Award is endowed with a cash prize, the amount of which will be 2,500 euros. The People’s Choice Award will go to the project that receives the most votes from the public in the seven days immediately following the announcement of the official award winners (on October 2013). Votes will be cast electronically on the VIDA website and social networks.
CATEGORY “INCENTIVES FOR PRODUCTION”
In this category, Vida 15.0 helps to finance artistic artificial life projects that have not yet been produced. It is reserved for artists who are citizens or residents of any country in Latin America, Spain or Portugal. This category is also endowed with 40,000 euros to be divided among five selected projects.
VIDA 15.0 launches the Incentives I+D Prize with the aim of encouraging innovation using the latest artificial life technologies. Of the five award-winning projects of the Incentives for Production category one will receive additional support to assist with its technological development. The awarded artist will receive assistance from experts on research, development and innovation of Telefonica team in cutting-edge information technologies. In addition to benefiting from regular advice and contact online, the artist/s will also be invited to spend a maximum of one month in Telefónica’s innovation department in Barcelona (Spain).
Project submissions will be accepted from 23rd April to 31th July 2013.
All projects must be submitted before midnight (Central European Time) on 31th July 2013.
The projects submitted will be examined by an international jury comprising the following members: Mónica Bello (Spain), Andreas Broeckmann (Germany), Rejane Cantoni (Brazil), Martin Kaltenbrunner (Austria), Seiko Mikami (Japan), Sally-Jane Norman (New Zealand/France), Nell Tenhaaf (Canada) and Laura Fernández-Orgaz (Fundación Telefónica Responsible for de Art and Technology Projects).
To submit your project for consideration, please read the COMPETITION RULES carefully and complete the ONLINE REGISTRATION FORM posted on the Vida website: www.fundacion.telefonica.com/vida
INFORMATION AND QUERIES
You can find the competition guidelines and the participation form at http://www.fundacion.telefonica.com/vida
You may also contact us by sending an email to email@example.com
*A number of web-based social networks have already died or are comatose, but despite their colossal size and apparently overwhelming success, they’re disruptable. A lot of people really hate ‘em. Look at the bitterness of the comments in this article, where people leap with joy at the hint that Facebook might be vulnerable. The social networks have enemies.
*People need to pay a little attention to sensible, hands-on news like this, and stop blathering about how the magic device causes Mayan apocalypses, cures cancer, flies to Mars etc.
*Think of it this way: “Google Glass a partially crippled Android device that sits on my head for Google’s benefit, and has an interface about ten times weirder than Windows Eight.” You’re sure to figure that out eventually, so you might as well do it now and get ahead of the curve.
*It’s still interesting; it’s just that since it’s now a real-world product rather than a speculative prototype, it’s become interesting in a different way. Some day, maybe quite soon, Google Glass will become dead media, and it will still be interesting.
May 19, 2013
*You’ll know this is a thing when certain cities start boasting about their “smart-free zones.”
“But as political leaders, engineers, and environmentalists join the smart-city bandwagon, a growing chorus of thinkers from social sciences, architecture, urban planning, and design are starting to sound a note of caution. Building a new, intelligent urban infrastructure could be every bit as momentous as building a water supply, or roads, or a subway system—setting development patterns for decades. Though they share enthusiasm for what a smart city could do, they also point out that smart-city programs could—with little public oversight—put us on track to a kind of urban future that not everyone thinks is ideal.
“Behind the alluring vision, they argue, lurk a number of troubling questions. A city tracking its citizens, even for helpful reasons, encroaches on the personal liberty we count on in public spaces. The crucial software systems and networks that underlie city services will likely lie in private hands. And the more successful smart-city programs become, the more they risk diverting resources into the problems that can be solved with technology, rather than grappling with difficult issues that can’t be easily fixed with an app.
“Networks and software could reshape city life as permanently as highways did.
” “We’ve had a very good debate in the technology community and business community about the benefits, but very little assessment of the risks,” says Anthony Townsend, an urban planning researcher at New York University and the Institute for the Future, who has spoken and written critically about smart cities.
“Cities are focal points for human civilization, the places where people live, work, and create. And they may well be on the verge of new transformation, one that not only alters how they run but what their residents’ lives are like. As they move forward, there’s not just one inevitable path: Different ways of implementing technology could create very different cities, not all of them desirable places to live.
“TODAY, SMART-CITY programs tend to be limited and fairly granular, though people might be surprised to know exactly which parts of their cities are already sensing and analyzing information. Boston is wired with a system called ShotSpotter, which uses acoustic sensors to detect and pinpoint the location of gunshots. The MBTA has been building an extensive network of thousands of surveillance cameras throughout the subway system, monitored from an operations center, and has also installed sensors to detect biological weapons. Equipment on the Prudential Tower and other buildings tracks greenhouse gas emissions; analytical software even helps predict maintenance needs in parts of the sewer system.
“Other cities are testing more extensive projects….”
*Of course the music sounds terrible when you laser-cut it into some random sheet of whatever’s in the hackerlab, but what good taste in the choice of music.
“A few months back, I wrote about how I used a 3D printer to transform any mp3 into a physical record. Though all the documentation for that project is available here, and the 3D models could potentially be printed through an online fabrication service, I knew that the barrier to entry for normal people interested in trying out the process themselves was prohibitively high. With this project I wanted to try to extend the idea of digitally fabricated records to use relatively common and affordable machines and materials so that (hopefully) more people can participate, experiment, and actually use all this documentation I’ve been writing.
“These records were cut on an Epilog 120 Watt Legend EXT to a theoretical precision of 1200dpi (the kerf of the cut and some tricks I used to avoid crashing the laser cutter dropped the actual precision down by ~1/6). The audio on the records has a bit depth between 4-5 (typical mp3 audio is 16 bit) and a sampling rate up to about 4.5kHz (mp3 is 44.1kHz). So far I’ve successfully cut audio on wood (figs 1-2), acrylic (figs 3-4), and paper (figs 5-6), and I’m sure there are many more materials that would work. I wrote the Processing sketch that generates the record cutting paths so that it can be modified for any song, material, cutting machine, record size, and turntable speed (skip ahead to download the code and learn how to make your own records).
“You should also note that in this Instructable I’ll demonstrate specifically how I used a laser cutter for this process, but the cutting files I’m using are standard vector graphics in a PDF format, so they can be extended to many other digital fabrication tools. For example, I’m curious to see if it’s possible to use a CNC mill or a CNC razor blade paper cutter with my cutting files (a group of people were able to cut out some sine waves on paper using a Cameo in this Instructable).
“Below are some of my final results, read on to see how they were made and how you can make your own….”
*Hey, I really like the flex-cable table-mounting devices. I wonder where they got those.
Published on May 15, 2013
Hermaton is an augmented reality exploration game designed as a large scale spatial installation, which follows from our initial architectural prototype for “Grid”. Although available at table top versions, the premise of this project lies in its capacity to harness augmented reality as a spatial medium which transcends mere visualisation and enters a dialogue between physical and digital space. The large scale of the installation allows a greater understanding of how augmented reality can affect us at an architectural level and change the way we inhabit and perceive the built environment.
The project uses a buzz wire maze which people can navigate through in real-time, attempting to interact with the digital objects of the “Hermaton” machine. The design of this environment provides both an interactive and performance space which allows the user to fully immerse in a new augmented physical landscape.
The AR system is enlarged to occupy an entire room by covering each wall with trackable markers which can be experienced on both Android and ios devices. The prototype was developed using Vuforia Augmented Reality SDK and Unity3d.
A table top version is available below:
For more information about this project please visit:
*Anna Chapman sure got a lot of flak about her weird, crappy tradecraft in New York City, but you’d have to give Anna at least a B-minus compared to this unfortunate situation.
“Fogle’s arrest was filmed by the FSB and shown on Russian television. In the video [ru], Fogle is seen in an unconvincing blond wig and baseball cap, which are then removed by an FSB agent before Fogle is frogmarched into a waiting car. Fogle’s “spy-kit” (which included two wigs, sunglasses, a compass, a cheap Nokia phone, an Atlas of Moscow, a Swiss army knife (((hey those are forbidden on planes and I guess for good reason))) and several envelopes of 500-euro notes) is then displayed for the cameras. Later in the video, Fogle and what appear to be three of his colleagues from the Embassy are given a dressing-down by a pixilated FSB agent. In a manner strangely reminiscent of a school headmaster scolding wayward students, the agent expresses his shock and disappointment at Fogle’s attempts to recruit Russian citizens…”
(((There are Russian guys on-line who even feel sorry for Fogle and are engaging in pro American-spy pep-talks.)))
“Let’s start with the most controversial item in the eyes of the average person: the common Moscow road atlas with the addresses of all the buildings in it. In the high-tech era, when everyone has a phone with GPS and good maps, it seems like an anachronism. But now consider the specifics of an agent’s work, when he can leave no traces, including digital ones. I can’t picture the agent who looks up the way to a secret location or a meeting place on Google Maps and then saves the route. That agent would have to be a complete idiot. Similarly, it’s hard for me to imagine sending information about meeting place in electronic form, this is an additional risk [...] So you can whinge all you like about intelligence agents shunning new technologies, but it isn’t the case. An effective means of leaving no traces is not to use GPS.”
(((All that seems to be missing here is some Russian women admitting that Fogle is quite cute and that they’d like to have him seduce and suborn them, and I don’t doubt that those women exist.)))
May 18, 2013
*You’ll notice that the heavy-duty operators in the Machine-to-Machine scene don’t talk much about “internet of things.” No smart-talking gizmos, no noospheres, none of that, just vast heaps of power and money.
“At VERGE Boston yesterday, panelists explored machine-to-machine communications, the burgeoning but poorly understood technology that experts predict will constitute a $1 trillion dollar industry by the end of the decade.
“Machine-to-machine, or M2M, technology enables all kinds of devices — heating valves, wireless sensors, in-flight recorders, and more — to collect and share reams of data with analytics software that can in turn help systems function with near-perfect efficiency. (((You’ll note that these unsmart gizmos don’t talk to each other. They’re not all internetty, they’re just a step forward in a rather time-honored set of industrial control methods.)))
“The sustainability implications of M2M are immense. With applications in fields as varied as energy, building management, transportation, and agriculture, (((normally one would add curing cancer and travelling to Mars at this point))) M2M has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 9.1 gigatons annually. That’s equivalent to the 2010 emissions of India and the United States combined. (((That would be good. I could put up with a lot of buzzing and clicking for a benefit like that.)))
“Panelist John Schultz, who directs AT&T’s sustainability operations, noted that investments in M2M could produce carbon dioxide reductions equal to all renewable energy sources combined. Savings in resources like water and fertilizer could be equally significant.
“Joining Schulz on the panel were Mark Bernardo, general manager of automation software at GE Intelligent Platforms, and Dan Probst, chairman of energy and sustainability services at Jones Lang LaSalle.
“Probst, who last year received a VERGE 25 Award for his leadership in harnessing automation systems to make buildings operate more sustainably, gushed with enthusiasm for the opportunities M2M offers the real estate industry.
“Probst observed that, while the concept of building optimization has existed for decades, the last few years have been characterized by “a huge leap forward” in optimization technologies, in large part because of the increased demand for energy savings during the Great Recession.
“Probst said the latest M2M technology gives building managers “the ability to pull data out of the buildings, run analytics, and really continuously fine-tune and optimize the energy performance of buildings.”
” “We’re finding incredible savings,” said Probst, citing consistent reductions in energy consumption of between 10 to 20 percent in less than two years….”
*Interesting brand-extension there.